It is important to state the objection of Dr. Sayyed:
All these authors lied because there is no direct reference to the actual words they are saying. In a WhatsApp message Dr. Sayyed mentions:
“Take another example John 20:9 ‘For as yet they knew not the Scriptures, that he must rise again from the dead ‘. WE ARE STRUGGLING TO FIND WHERE THE OT MENTIONED THIS JESUS MUST RISE FROM THE DEAD.”
His newest objection can be found here: “Christians do not risk your Salvation on the Liars”
According to him, these authors have no merit to announce any credibility of the events about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In answering these objections, it is important how we see the biblical text. First, let me state that Jesus unambiguously claims that He is the central message of the whole sweep of the Old Testament.
Luke 24:27, 44
“Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. 44 Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
John 5:39; 39
“You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.”
The claims of Dr. Shuaib are, therefore, an indictment against the claims of Jesus Christ, the Christian God, and the Jewish Prophets.
The New Testament Author use of the Old Testament
You find two kinds of applications of the Old Testament by New Testament writers: one in which the New Testament writer abides by and connects the grammatical-historical sense of the Old Testament passages and another use in which the New Testament writers go beyond the grammatical-historical understanding of the Old Testament passage to assign the text an additional meaning in conjunction with its New Testament context.
(a) Instances of Direct Fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
“See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.”
Matthew takes this from the Prophet Isaiah. Let me remind you that Matthew relies on two witnesses, the Prophet Isaiah, and the Prophet Jesus. Isaiah (7:14) prophecy.
“Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.”
Here we find an instance of a direct attribution from the Old Testament text and its implication to Jesus. In our conversations, Dr. Shuaib has mentioned that this passage does not, in any way, refer to Jesus. Jewish Scholar Dr. Michael Brown states;
“Isaiah 7:14, when read in the context of Isaiah 7–11—one of the key Messianic sections in the prophetic books—ultimately pointed to Jesus/Yeshua, our Messiah and King. In Isaiah 7 he is about to be born; in Isaiah 9 he is already born and declared to be the divine king (see below, 4.5, and see also vol. 2, 3.3); in Isaiah 11 he is ruling and reigning (in the supernatural power of the Spirit, at that). As Matthew looked back at these prophecies hundreds of years later, it would have been apparent to him that (1) these chapters were clearly linked together, and (2) the promises of a worldwide, glorious reign of the promised Davidic king were not yet realized. Something must have happened in Isaiah’s day relative to the birth of an Immanuel figure, but its greater promise—elaborated more fully in chapters 9 and 11—did not reach fulfillment in any sense of the word.”
This is precisely the context Matthew picks up and refers too when declaring the Jewish expectation of the Messiah from Isaiah (Chapter 7-11). For the sake of time, you are welcome to refer to other examples mentioned above from the column.
|(a) Instances of Direct Fulfillment of OT prophecy.||(b) Instances of Inspired Sensus Plenior Application (ISPA) of OT Passages.|
|Examples: Matt 1:23 with Isa 7:14; Acts 13:23 with Isa 11:1; Matt 21:42 with Isa 28:1 6 an d Ps 11 8:22 ; Luke 3:4 -6 with Isa 40:3 -5; Matt 3:16-17 and 17:5 with Isa 42:1a; Matt 26:67 and 27:26, 30 with Isa 50:6; John 12:37-38 with Isa 53:1; Acts 8:32-33 with Isa 53:7 -8; Matt 26:63 and 27:12, 14 with Isa 53:7 ; John 1:29 with Isa 53:7; 1 Pet 2:22 with Isa 53:9; Luke 22:37 with Isa 53:12 ; Luke 4:18-19 with Isa 61:1-2 a; Matt 21:5 with Isa 62:11 an d Zech 9:9||Examples: Luke 20:17-18 with Isa 8:14-15; Heb 2:13a with Isa 8:17; Heb 2:13b with Isa 8:18; Matt 4:12-16 with Isa 9:1-2; John 4:10, 14 with Isa 12:3; 1 Cor 15:54 with Isa 25:8; 1 Cor 14:21-22 with Isa 28:11; Matt 11:5 with Isa 29:18 and 35:5; Heb 8:6, 10-12 with Isa 42:6; Matt 11:5 and Luke 4:18 with Isa 42:7; Acts 13:47 with Isa 49:6; Matt 8:16-17 with Isa 53:4; John 6:45 with Isa 54:13; Rom 10:20 with Isa 65:1; Matt 2:15 with Hos 11:1; Rom 3:10b-18 with PS 5:9; 10:7; 14:1-; 36:1; 53:1-3; 140:3; Prov 1:16; Eccl 7:20; Isa 59:7 -8|
(b) Instances of Inspired Sensus Plenior Application of Old Testament Passages.
When we look at the meaning of the sensus plenior application, we identify how the New Testament authors identified these Scriptures’ more profound sense. The immediate implication of both testaments was its referral to Jesus Christ. Professor of New Testament, Henry M. Shire writes;
“Both Jews and Christians recognized that because the Scriptures were inspired writings their unfulfilled prophecies demanded some kind of fulfillment… At the heart of the first Christian proclamation was the conviction that Jesus is the fulfillment of the unfulfilled prophecies and hopes of the O.T… The God whose words and deeds are recorded in the O.T. is the same God which is revealed in Jesus.”
What was the sensus plenior meaning or the fuller meaning God intended via human authors, and how do the New Testament authors utilize the Old Testament Scriptures? Dr. Shuaib would have us believe that nowhere in the Old Testament is there any clear referral to the Messiah’s mission or death? But we can deduce through various passages of Scripture that there was an expectation of His self-sacrifice.
The Witness of the Prophet Jesus.
The New Testament witness is that Jesus expected that He would suffer a martyr’s death (cf. Matthew 16:21–28; 17:22-23; 26:1-2, Mark 8:31–33; 9:30-32, Luke 9:22–27, John 12:23-24). This is what we see predicted by some of the Old Testament Prophets like Isaiah (53:5, 8; 10), the Prophet Zechariah (12:10), the Prophet David (16:10). Dr. Shuaib’s indictment against the New Testament authors being deceitful does not suspend the witness of the Prophets or the collective Apostolic witness of the New Testament authors.
The witness of some of the Old Testament Prophets
(1) The Prophet Isaiah on the reality of Christ’s imminent death.
Commenting on Isaiah 53:2-12 Dr. Sayyed Shuaib mentioned to me in a WhatsApp message that he read Isaiah 53, but it did not:
“use the word Christ will rise from the dead the third day”.
“’Rise from the dead ‘ I can’t find in Isaiah 53”
Dr. Shuaib’s insistence is merely a ploy to avoid the actual context and Prophecy of Isaiah. The Prophet gives the existing account during Israel’s immediate context but correspondingly relates the sensus plenior or more profound significance of Israel’s future redemption by the Messiah. Dr. Michael Brown mentions;
“The prophet saw the future glory of Israel and the work of the Messiah against the backdrop of the end of the exile. But the context is larger—beginning in Isaiah 40. It spells a new beginning for Israel, a new creation and a new exodus, a time when all the world will ultimately see the glory of the Lord. The events predicted in Isaiah 53 are far greater than the return of about forty-five thousand Jews from Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E. Rather, in these passages in Isaiah, the exile serves as a symbol of the spiritual bondage of the Jewish people, while the return from exile serves as a figure of their redemption. These prophecies of redemption culminate in the glorious Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 52:13–53:12. Isaiah 52:13–53:12 is one of the most important Messianic prophecies in the entire Hebrew Bible, and I would not be exaggerating to say that more Jews have put their faith in Jesus as Messiah after reading this passage of Scripture than after reading any other passage in the Tanakh. To the unbiased reader, it clearly speaks about the death and resurrection of the righteous servant of the Lord on behalf of his sinful people. It speaks of Yeshua!”
Imagine I insist that it does not refer to Muhammad when it speaks in chapter 33 (Al-ʿAzab), verse 33 of the Qur’an about the ‘Messenger.” Dr. Shuaib will negotiate the chapter’s context and may even demand I investigate the overall meaning. This is precisely the argument Dr. Shuaib is getting at. Let’s look at the Prophet Zechariah.
(2) The Prophet Zechariah on the Method of Christ’s death.
Another Prophet, Zacharias (12:10), insists that at a future time (“in that day”), they will look upon One they pierced as confirmed by the Prophet Isaiah (53:5). This is precisely what John the Beloved affirm (John 19:37) as an actual eyewitness of the Crucifixion! Other Prophetic statements are all over the Old Testament (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; 22,) and was recognized by the earliest Christian authors (Acts 2:24-32), but Dr. Sayyed again mentions on this passage in our correspondence the he:
“didn’t find ‘rise from the dead ‘ nor in Psalms 22, in fact Psalms 22:4-5 say they cried unto thee and were delivered. Please give what Luke 24 :46 says Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. Please show me where?”
I asked Dr. Shuaib and many other Muslims what the text alleges then? Usually, the answer is the same; it must be Israel that would be pierced. David Mitchell mentions that this could not have referred to the nations of Israel that would be pierced because,
“To assume the identified person for ‘they pierced’ is hardly warranted when ‘they will look’ only four words before is definite. And to assume a new biblical subject (‘the nations’) when none intervenes amounts to re-writing the biblical text.”
In other words, how can Israel both be the recipient of violence, yet be the observants as well? It just does not make any sense. I think it is convenient to insist on what the text is not saying and simply uncharitable towards what the New Testament authors are trying to accomplish. The context does show that it would be the Jewish covenant people that ‘pierced’ the Messiah. Michael Rydelnik mentions:
“These verses do indicate that at their end-time repentance, Jewish people will recognize that their ancestors were participants in the conspiracy against the Messiah, not that they acted alone or were perpetually guilty (see Ac 4:27-28).
(3) The Prophet David on the Resurrection of Jesus (Psalm 16:10).
Luke accounts that Peter, the Apostle preached from the Old Testament Scriptures, that Jesus would not be abandoned in death, but he will be resurrected from the grave. He accounts that Peter said (Acts 2:27);
“You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.”
Peter (verse 23-24) even accounts that;
“Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.”
Luke accounts that both Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:35) account the same when they preach from this Psalm,
“So also, He says in another Psalm: ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.”
Here we find the Prophets predicting it, and the Apostles confirming it (Eph.2:20). Here we have all the Apostles and closest friends of Jesus finding that this was what the Prophet David predicted. John (2:22), the Beloved Disciple, insists that;
“After He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. Then they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”
We cannot but see the significance of the Old Testament anticipating the New Testament when even the Prophet Jonah (2:6) writes;
“To the roots of the mountains I descended; the earth beneath me barred me in forever! But You raised my life from the pit, O LORD my God!”
What about Matthew’s blunder in Matthew 1:17?
Dr Shuaib Sayyed comments that he cannot accept the credibility of Matthew’s Gospel and Mark because of two blunders, Matthew (1:17) gets the genealogy wrong in his numbering, and Mark (4:30-32) accounts the fact that Jesus got the Mustard Seed wrong. He wrote that he denies these accounts and;
“Matthew on the basis of Genealogy and Mark on the basis of Mustard seed are liars. You can not quote Matthew and Mark in your support.”
Dr. Shuaib does not allow Matthew to affirm the account of Jesus being the Davidic King referring to the Israeli Monarchical structure by utilizing a specific interpretative technique. Biblical scholar R.T. France explains;
“It is often suggested that this is an example of gematria, the Jewish interpretive technique which depended on the numerical value of Hebrew letters: the name “David” (the fourteenth name in the list) consists of three Hebrew consonants, DWD, the numerical value of which are respectively four, six, and four, giving a total of fourteen; fourteen is thus the symbolic number of David. For a reader of Matthew’s Greek gospel to recognize any such numerical symbolism would have to depend on quite a sophisticated awareness of Hebrew numerology.”
R.T. France adds;
“it is more likely that his focus on the number “fourteen” derives from his observation that there were in fact fourteen names in the genealogical list from Abraham to David as recorded in the OT, and his realization that a little adjustment of the king list would allow him to produce a symmetrical pattern with the period of the monarchy highlighted as its central phase. In that case the theological focus of Matthew’s “book of origin” is not so much on the number “fourteen” itself as on the royal dimension which his symmetrical structure has brought to light by tracing the line of succession which finds its culmination in the coming of Jesus, the “son of David,” and thus potentially in the restoration of the monarchy.”
Dr. Shuaib seems uninterested in any form of explanation and is seemly rather pressing towards a blatant denial. Polemicists have shown similar problems in the Qur’an, and Muslims have used the same charitable types of explanation when dealing with these arguments. There is simply no reason to conclude in such an absolute skepticism.
Did Jesus get it wrong about the Mustard Seed?
Biblical commentator Alfred Plummer mentions that the Jews of Jesus’ day used the phrase “as small as a mustard seed” to refer to anything small and almost unnoticeable. Jesus is obviously relating something that would be familiar to the world and context of the known world he lived in. As Norman Geisler comments;
“Jesus was not referring to all the seeds in the world, but only those that a Palestinian farmer sowed in his field. This is made clear by the qualifying phrase “which a man took and sowed in his field” (v. 31). And it is a fact that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds which the 1st century Jewish farmer sowed in his field. So there is no contradiction here between science and Scripture. What Jesus said was literally true in the context in which He said it.”
There is therefore nothing controversial about Christ’s statement when we read his statements in its context.
There is no doubt that Dr. Shuaib has an axe to grind, but his demands fall short when considering the Biblical witness. The chief passages alluded to are doubtless. There seems to be a witness from the Scriptures, and quite a few similar demands from the New Testament authors regarding Christ’s person and mission. Our Lord had confidently taught the apostles to refer to the Messianic interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies and apply them to Him (Acts 8:35; 17:3; 26:22, 23; John 2:22; 20:9; 1 Peter 1:11). I will end with a quote from Scottish Theologian W. Graham Scroggie.
“In the Old Testament Christ is predicted; in the Gospels He is present; in the Acts He is proclaimed; in the Epistles He is possessed; and in the Revelation He is predominant. Christ is the focus of all history, prophecy and type. Divine revelation converges in Him in the Old Testament and emerges from Him in the New Testament. Both parts of the Revelation meet in Him; the one part as preparation, and the other, as realization. In this view all parts of the Bible, from books to verses, constitute a Divine progressive revelation of redeeming love; God and man meet in the One who is the God-Man”.
 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Part 4. Pg. 26-51.
 Finding the Old Testament in the New. (1974) Pg.31.
 Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Part 4. Pg.61
 Messiah bar Ephraim in the Targums, Aramaic Studies 4, no.2 (2006): 229.
 The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (2014:1433).
 The Prophet Jonah (2:10) on Jesus being in the grave for three days and nights. Jonah also made a future prediction that Jesus Christ seemingly applied to Himself (See: Matthew 12:40; 16:4).
 Ten Ways that Jesus is the Greater Jonah:
- Jonah was a prophet preaching God’s wrath and repentance (Jonah 1:2, 3:1-4) and so
was Jesus (Acts 3:22; Mark 1:14-15).
Matthew 4:17 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
- Jonah ran from God’s call to a different kind of life (Jonah 1:3). Jesus perfectly obeyed
the Father’s will and went to the cross (John 6:38).
- Jonah slept on a ship during a storm caused by his own disobedience and offered up his
life to save those on the ship (1:4-12). Jesus slept on a ship during a storm, calmed the storm, and
would later offer up His life to save those who were disobedient (Mark 435-41).
- Jonah claimed to fear the Creator God who had authority on earth (Jonah 1:9).
Jesus is the Creator God with the supreme authority over all the earth (John 1:3; Matthew 28:18).
- Jonah spent three days inside the belly of a great fish because of his own sin (Jonah
1:17). Jesus spent three days inside the belly of the earth because of our sin (1 John 2:2).
- Jonah learned that “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). Jesus’ name means
“Yahweh saves” and He is the Lord of salvation (Hebrews 5:9; Acts 4:12).
- Jonah despised God for showing grace toward repentant sinners (Jonah 4:2). Jesus
modeled God’s grace toward repentant sinners (Luke 19:10).
- Jonah lacked concern for the salvation of people from other nations (specifically the
Ninevites (Jonah 4:2). Jesus gave his life to ransom people to God “from every tribe and
language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
- Jonah was angry enough to die because of God’s grace toward sinners (Jonah 4:3).
Jesus was compassionate enough to die because of His love for sinners (1 John 3:16).
- Jonah cared more about his own comfort than people (4:10-11). Jesus denied himself
comfort to reconcile us to God (Philippians 2:6-8 Corinthians 5:18).
In every way, Jesus is the greater Jonah.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew (2007), 98.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew (2007), 99.
 Alfred Plummer. An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew. New York: Scribner and Sons, 1909.
 When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe.
 “The Unfolding Drama of Redemption” Pg 31.